Three Business Events Leaders Ahead of the Curve

Event Africa Contributor 07/06/2019 Industry News
Resource Design Cape Wine Expo 2018

As the business events industry matures and evolves, so does stand design, from new concepts to sustainability and innovation. Kim Crowie speaks to those racing ahead of the curve.

This article was first featured in Event Africa Issue 2.

The global exhibition industry is growing in leaps and bounds, and with such growth, it has become rather important to evaluate what comes out of trade shows not only from an economic point of view, but also from a sustainable perspective. More often than not, stands generate a fair amount of waste, and it stands to reason that in order to contribute to the health of our planet, we need to take a hard look at what material is used to build stands, and how we think about what we use in the design phase already. Several such people share their insights on trends in this sector, as well as their winning stands and projects. We present to you a visual feast of stand design!

READ MORE: A Sustainable Expo Case Study – A Look Back at Cape Wine 2018

Yours Eventfully (The Exhibitionist)

Dale Hammond, Head of Events

Your year in review?

2018 was a big year for exhibitions, and particularly for our team, as we build numerous stands at Electra Mining Africa 2019, as well as the South African Pavilion at ITU Telecoms World 2018 hosted in Durban, South Africa (these shows ran concurrently in two different cities making it a challenge to manage all the build ups simultaneously).

Your thoughts on the local exhibition industry?

We are in a unique position within Africa as we host some of the largest exhibitions and conferences on the continent. There are endless opportunities for job creation within the industry, from promotional staff and hosting, through to event management and exhibition construction. Ideally, we would like to see more black women entering the industry, bringing creativity and fresh ideas along with them, as well as existing companies empowering their staff members to become key players in the industry.

What trends have you noticed in stand design?

Greening: the carbon footprint of events and exhibitions is under a brighter spotlight than ever before, making it imperative for companies to review their processes to match global sustainability standards.

Space: Bigger isn’t always better, and open and enclosed spaces both have a spot in exhibition design. We want to avoid cookie cutter exhibition stands by manipulating space to work for the client’s needs and products.

Homeliness: Comfortable furniture and fabrics are in; creating the feeling of being comfortable and at home is important as it creates an inviting and warm atmosphere encouraging guests and prospective clients on to the stand.

Lighting: Back lighting, hanging lighting, track lighting – lights create a mood and convey the message of your brand and stand – edgy and modern, formal or luxurious. Your stand is your stage – light it up.

An Award Winning Stand

Client: Becker Mining Systems

Brief: At The Exhibitionist, we work with our clients with the aim of building solid, continued long term relationships. We have been servicing Becker Mining for over ten years. The brief was to showcase the client’s products while including an attractive social meeting area.

Challenges: Due to the scale of the stand and the nature of the client’s large, heavy products, it can be quite a logistical challenge to get them into the hall. The products and machines weigh a lot, making it a task to not crack the floors. Once the products have been placed, they cannot be moved making accuracy of placement of the utmost importance. As we were building a number of stands at Electra Mining Africa, we needed to ensure that each client received a dedicated team.

Technical Specs: Power supply is most important on a stand as such Becker Mining Systems – their products and machinery draw a lot of power. We needed to categorise which products needed three-phase power and which required single-phase power.

Awards won: Best Design Stand 2018, Custom 201m2 and over (EXSA-llence awards)


Gill Gibbs, Group CEO

Your year in review?

It has been a dynamic year for the bluCube Design and Brand Activations team in which we obsessed about the details, created some award winning designs and enjoyed ourselves in the process. The year started off with our very own stand at the Exhibition of Exhibitions which won a 2018 stand design EXSA-llence award. It was inspired by the bluCube logo, comprising cubes painted to the CI pantone. One of the cubes was used as a brand activation whereby the visitor could place their head in a mirror vinyl box to take a creative picture of themselves.

One of our very unique projects is for Siemens where they launched the Digital Mining Incubator at Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, a long-term installation. The Digital Mining Incubator (DMI) is aimed at developing the next generation of digital mining experts, where Siemens is collaborating with graduates to co-create digital use cases for the South African mining sector.

bluCube also designed and realised the South African Tourism stand for IBTM Barcelona 2018, in collaboration with Designer’s Ink which has now merged with Colourworks to become CWDi.

Your thoughts on the local exhibition industry?

Locally, the industry has seen some major players close their doors and in some cases, they have closed their production facilities, choosing to operate as agencies. The reason cited for these major occurrences is that the organisations and/or facilities are not making money, and subsequently, these organisations are not sustainable.

The immediate reaction to the situation is that it creates business opportunities for those players that have survived the economic downturns that South Africa has gone through from 2017, however, importantly, this situation also places immense pressure on the manufacturers of the industry, where the workload supersedes the quantity of quality stand manufacturers.

The industry requires training and guidance for new startups and organisations that are contemplating going into manufacturing. We are seeing that Industry members and players want open discussions about industry challenges – to build and improve the community. All the while, technology is advancing at an incredibly rapid rate.

What trends have you noticed in stand design?

Greening: We are seeing an ever-increasing focus on the use of sustainable and repurposed stand components. Small change, big impact. Exhibition stands and activations are being designed with longevity and repurposing in mind.

Good Design: That is, stands are not over-engineered, bulky and over-budget. Minimalistic is the trend; effective, with prominent LED lighting. The focus is on decreasing the corporate and increasing the concept. Creativity is key. Fabric is still very popular and customised and repurposed furniture and décor.

Technology is ever-evolving: Smartphones provide more and more capabilities and connections and personal is where we want to be. Event technology is and will continue to become more reasonably priced. Customisation creates personalisation and this is primary and targeted to individual needs. Virtual, Intelligent, Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) amplify attendee engagement, provide facial recognition, make the experience personal.

Food and beverage experiences: Ever popular and increasingly creative, attendees enjoy interacting with food and beverages, where they can enjoy deconstructed foods and where available, make up their own food and beverages.

Extreme theming: This is simple minimalistic design that appeals to our sense of belonging. It shows that the attendees to the stand are important and remembered.

Use of social media and apps: The use of social media is rapidly increasing – before, during and after the exhibition. Apps are being developed by certain companies for their stand at a specific exhibition. Through the apps, exhibitors now have even the ability to push marketing messages directly to attendees passing their booth.

Activation and Gamification: Exhibitors nowadays are very creative in finding ways of not only attracting attendees to their stands, but also engaging with them. Think mini football, raffles, VR games, hashtag competitions or photo walls.

An Award-Winning Stand

Client: South African Tourism (Africa’s Travel Indaba 2018)

Brief: Embody South Africa as a one-stop destination for buyers to access information on everything that our country has to offer, with impactful structures, presence, the naturally South African welcome, warm hues and tones, all combined and packaged in an immersive visitor experience concept. The stand also had to incorporate and celebrate the 100th Centenary of Nelson Mandela.

Challenges: To ensure that each exhibitor/activation received equal exposure. Each brand/activity needed to stand out and provide the desired return and result, but at the same time, the general look and feel of the stand needed to be maintained. On top of that, we ensured that each activity had the required space that allows visitor traffic and flow.

Technical Specs: SA’s offerings were portrayed in the form of signature, strategically-packaged, colour-coded pillars. Visitors immersed themselves in unique experiences through VR Oculus. A large Mandela post card pin board shared 100 unique post cards to give away. The stand also used bright colours and creative use of LED fluorescent lights.

Awards won: Best Large Stand 2018 (IBTM World), Best Stand Design (EXSA-llence award).

Resource Design

Gary van der Watt

Your year in review?

We presented events for large brands of over 4000m² and at the same time presented small 3×3 stands that were just as interesting. The common factor has to be that they were all sustainable stands and most of them were either acknowledged by peers through awards or acknowledged by clients as pioneering, cost saving, efficient and innovative. 2018 was a year for Awards and our UFI Sustainability Award was an honour to receive.

We were the only country outside of Europe invited at the Amsterdam RAI Industry Hackathon – with our Challenge for Sustainability being one of only 4 chosen. We built our first 25min set up and derig 3×3 expo stand – culminating years of design and manufacture processes and technology.

Your thoughts on the local exhibition industry?

The buzz word has to be Unique Sustainable Potential. Sustainability does not only speak to ecological ‘’tree-hugger’’ aspects. It addresses real issues such as the drop-off in exhibitors or visitors, the way events are approached, packaged and sold. Events are not about selling expo stands but about selling a product. The aim is to create a platform that is effective and unique.

What trends have you noticed in stand design?

Smaller stands with more well thought through activation, planning and a longer ‘’shelf life.  Monster stands may still have a small place in promoting specific brands or events but more boutique stands and events with a more focussed impact are most predominant. This is partially budget driven but also as a social statement. As a company, we are also moving into the next phase. We always planned to supply [Xanita] to other stand builders. We will soon be able to make an announcement regarding a collaboration with a major stakeholder.

An Award-Winning Stand

Client: WESGRO – Cape Town and Western Cape, incl. Cape Town Convention Bureau

Brief: A stand that represented the province visually, was modular, considered a limited budget, and that was on trend (as well as sustainable).

Challenges: The stand had to be reusable over a two – three year period. While staying on-trend , a wide grouping of part-exhibitors had to be taken into consideration, whilst retaining a unique look and feel.

Technical Specs: Modularity and sustainability reuse and repurposing of aspects of the booth, material use and long-term design were critical.

Awards won: Best stand in 2016/17; Best large stand in 2018 (WTM Africa, Meetings Africa); Best Regional Stand Platinum Award (Africa’s Travel Indaba); Best Stand Award 2019 (Meetings Africa).

Trend Watch

  • Technology: more companies are opting for AR and VR components for demos. Touchscreen displays and interactive presentations are already widespread.
  • Customer Experiences: Many clients are requesting something more sensory and visceral. A moment that delegates won’t easily forget.
  • Natural Looks: As expected, there’s been an increase in the usage of more natural and sustainable materials like wood.
  • On-Brand Messaging: More companies are reflecting their brand values and identities in their stand designs – some impressively creative.

READ MORE: Tech Trends in Events to Watch

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